Mobile // Mobile Devices
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1/6/2012
03:12 PM
Larry Seltzer
Larry Seltzer
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Texting Has No Value And Must Die

Lots of people send me text messages from their smart phone to mine. Why don't they just send an e-mail?

Line2 says that its research shows that texting, a.k.a. SMS messaging, is on the rise as the mechanism for people to get quick answers from each other. This is a sad state of affairs.

If you have a smart phone, text messaging is redundant. In fact it's worse than redundant because carriers usually charge extra for it (one of the great scams of the telecom industry, as there's no real reason for extra charging other than that people are willing to pay). The only time it might make sense is with a non-smart phone, what they call a "feature phone" these days.

Superficially, SMS and email are very similar, except that SMS is inferior in every way. It goes only to one phone as opposed to a user. It has no concept of cc: or bcc:. It supports only text, not any kind of rich content.

I've always liked email because it's asynchronous: The two parties don't have to be communicating at the same time. If someone sends me an email, I can get back to them when I have the time. A phone call, on the other hand, is synchronous. It demands my immediate attention. It cuts into my productivity.

The Line2 argument is that texting falls somewhere in between. Superficially, it's like an email, but it carries a connotation of more urgency. There's nothing technical about this; it's a cultural thing. Whose culture? Those Damn Kids' culture. Younger people developed a liking for texting for reasons that are complex. My theory is that, even today, not a lot of kids have smart phones, and therefore if they have a cell phone at all, they have a choice of voice calls or SMS. If they had email they would know it can do anything SMS can do and a lot more.

But no, some people think that if you send an email you're not expecting a reply any time soon, whereas a text message comes with an implicit person poking you in the back saying "huh? huh? can I have an answer already?"

One day people will catch on to the fact that SMS is a scam run by the telcos and migrate their work over to email where it belongs. In the meantime, if you know what's good for you, don't text me.

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